Sunday, February 1, 2009

Chicory: Still Just a Coffee Substitute?

Last night the subject of chicory and coffee came up while I was out enjoying drinks with some friends. A New Orleans native brought up Cafe Du Monde, which of course led to the chicory conversation.

I had to admit I knew absolutely nothing about chicory other than Cafe Du Monde's famous coffee blend and chicory's historical use as a coffee substitute -- especially when real coffee was scarce (such as during the Civil War).

So of course, I had to look up chicory today, starting with good ol' Wikipedia. And here, for your reading pleasure are some of the facts that I uncovered:

  • Chicory is the root of the endive plant.
  • The use of chicory in coffee is said to have begun in France where it was first introduced by Napoleon's army.
  • At one time, people believed that the consumption of too much chicory damaged retinal tissue, leading to blurred vision.
  • Chicory is "well known for its toxicity to internal parasites."
  • Sweet Maria's warns that stale roasted chicory is just as bad as stale roasted coffee. If you're going to use it, get the good stuff. And they even offer it on their site.
Outside of Cafe Du Monde, I don't believe I've ever had coffee and chicory. I've certainly never tried blending it with my roasts. Being the purist that I tend to be with my coffee, I've always relegated it to the same category as French Vanilla, Hazelnutt and Snickerdoodle coffee. I'm curious to see if others agree.

If you have any thoughts, insight or opinions on chicory and coffee, please post a comment.


  1. I've never heard of chicory as a coffee substitute nor have I ever had chicory. I must say that as the coffee addict that I am, the mere thought that coffee is being "replaced" by any other beverage seems preposterous... however, your post has inspired me to research this more. I'm from southeastern Tennessee and I'm currently searching for a place to buy chicory or a blend with coffee, but thanks for contributing to my "branching out" in my coffee taste and I will report my findings upon my initial experience with it!

  2. Glad to inspire experimentation. I never knew much about chicory until my friend brought it up in conversation and I was inspired to look it up on the ol' wikipedia. Let me know what you find!

  3. I've had chicory in beer... the always good Dogfish Head Chicory Stout comes to mind. It's nummy nummy.

    Never had it in coffee though, or as a coffee sub. Would love to try it.

  4. Will definitely need to try the dogfish head stout. Thanks!

  5. absolutely love chicory as a coffee substitute.. I drink Krakus which combines extracts of roasted barley, rye, chicory, and beet roots... mix this with silk french vanilla (soy coffee creamer) and it is divine.